by Mike Ratliff
24 Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” John 7:24 (NASB)
What is the definition of the English word “fact?” The following is from the Merriam Webster Online Dictionary.
Main Entry: fact
Etymology: Latin factum, from neuter of factus, past participle of facere
Date: 15th century
1 : a thing done: as a obsolete : feat b : crime <accessory after the fact> c archaic : action 2 archaic : performance, doing 3 : the quality of being actual : actuality <a question of fact hinges on evidence> 4 a : something that has actual existence <space exploration is now a fact> b : an actual occurrence <prove the fact of damage> 5 : a piece of information presented as having objective reality
— in fact : in truth
The part that says, “a piece of information presented as having objective reality” is where I would like to concentrate in this post. I am a firm believer that there is something called absolute truth. Also, there exist truths that are objective. These are facts. On the other hand, there is information that is subjective in nature that is presented as if it has objective reality when actually this is not so because there is nothing objective behind the “proof.” For example, there are times when I use a form of the word “purpose” in what I write to convey a truth of God “purposing” to do something or that as Christians we should purpose in our hearts to obey the Lord, et cetera. There are some who would attempt to make the case that this is “Purpose Driven” language and this “proves” that I have become compromised and am now a disciple of Rick Warren. I contend that this type of thinking is what our Lord was referring to in John 7:24 about judging by appearances.
A fact is something that actually possesses objective reality. It can be proven. When I teach that God is Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent, and Immutable, I use Sacred Scripture as proof. These truths are clearly taught in the Bible. When I or one of my good friends writes about some false teacher and what they say that is unbiblical we give you what that person has said and compare it with what the Bible says about that topic. This is how we expose the false. On the other hand, if we attempted to prove that a pastor, theologian or Christian writer was false or was compromised and the only evidence we had was akin to the example I used above about the use of the word “purpose” then what we have done is given you not objective, but subjective reasoning. In logical reasoning this is a form of “Begging the Question.” When we do this we are doing judging by appearances and are leading you to do the same thing, hoping you will “make the connection” that we have subjectively made.
When I think of the subjective I always go back to some team sports I played as a boy and teenager in which the umpires or referees would make calls that most of us knew very well were not based on facts, but on a judgment call by the man who was really only going on a split second glimpse of evidence of something that may or may not have really taken place. When I was in the US Navy, I was recruited to play as a replacement player on a military touch football team that played other military teams within our city. There was only one referee, but he wore the whole getup with the stripped shirt and white hat. I played defense. On one play, I tipped a pass that was intercepted by one our defensive backs. When this happened I was facing away from the line of scrimmage. When the pass was intercepted, I turned to block for the one who had caught it. That is all I did. I just turned around and bumped into a player on the other team. By then, our guy had passed us and was on the way to the end zone. We celebrated. Then the referee called the play back, pointed his finger at me and said I had clipped (blocked from behind) on the play. I got in his face while the one I had supposedly blocked illegally was laughing his guts out. He had pretended to be blocked in the back by me when I really only bumped into him face to face then stepped around him. I became so angry that I told the one who had recruited me that I was done and left to sit out the rest of the game. After the game, the referee ran to his car and sped off. The players on the other team fully admitted to having “cheated” and then left for their cars laughing all the way.
Several years ago a certain person contacted me in an attempt to recruit me to become part of his attempt to bring down John MacArthur and his ministry. He claimed that he had damning evidence that clearly showed that John MacArthur and his ministries are purpose driven and that John himself is not really a Christian. I asked for the proof. What I got was a great deal of subjective evidence based on guilt by association and amphiboly logical fallacies (begging the question). There was nothing that could even remotely be called objective reality in any of it. With each rejection, I would receive more data. Finally, the person feeding me the “evidence” proclaimed that I was guilty of being what the social-psychologists call a “transformational thinker. He then claimed, “You can’t attend to facts. You change facts to opinions and innuendo.” Well, you know me, I had to look up that one. This is an accusation that I am in league with Rick Warren, Bill Hybels and am a “Change Agent” like them. When confronted by “the truth” I turn it to merely opinion and innuendo because, in this way, I can lie to people, pretending to be one thing, but am actually in league with the very people who are decimating our Churches with the Purpose Driven deception. In other words, he accused me of being a lying hypocrite. What was his evidence? I refused to believe his half-truths nor could I be seduced by his poor logic. Our Lord was accused of much worse than that.
10 But when His brothers had gone up to the feast, then He Himself also went up, not publicly, but as if, in secret. 11 So the Jews were seeking Him at the feast and were saying, “Where is He?” 12 There was much grumbling among the crowds concerning Him; some were saying, “He is a good man”; others were saying, “No, on the contrary, He leads the people astray.” 13 Yet no one was speaking openly of Him for fear of the Jews.
14 But when it was now the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and began to teach. 15 The Jews then were astonished, saying, “How has this man become learned, having never been educated?” 16 So Jesus answered them and said, “My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me. 17 If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself. 18 He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who is seeking the glory of the One who sent Him, He is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.
19 “Did not Moses give you the Law, and yet none of you carries out the Law? Why do you seek to kill Me?” 20 The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who seeks to kill You?” 21 Jesus answered them, “I did one deed, and you all marvel. 22 For this reason Moses has given you circumcision (not because it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and on the Sabbath you circumcise a man. 23 If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath so that the Law of Moses will not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made an entire man well on the Sabbath? 24 Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” John 7:10-24 (NASB)
Here is v24 from the NA28 Greek text.
24 μὴ κρίνετε κατʼ ὄψιν, ἀλλὰ τὴν δικαίαν κρίσιν κρίνετε. John 7:24 (NA28)
This literally says, “Not judge according to sight, but the right judgment judge.” The word translated as judge is κρίνετε. The words “according to sight” are κατʼ ὄψιν. Κρίνετε refers to the act of dividing, separating, making a distinction, or coming to a decision. Jesus said to not do that κατʼ ὄψιν. What does it mean to judge by sight or appearances? The word κατʼ (according to) in this context is metamorphically being used of the κρίνετε being made according to or in respect to ὄψιν, which refers to the outside or countenance rather than the inner character or truth. Jesus tells us here to not make our judgments based on the subjective, ever! Instead, we are to κρίνετε only with τὴν δικαίαν κρίσιν, “the right judgment. “ The word δικαίαν refers to that which is right according to God’s standards, which are just and good according to His character.
The word κρίσιν, judgment, is a separation, sundering, judgment, or sentence. We are not commanded to never judge here, but to judge only according to God’s judgment. This means that we will not use subjective reasoning, but will compare what the one under scrutiny says and does, comparing those things with God’s standards. This means that we will always judge objectively, based only on facts, the truth, not possible truth or innuendo or opinion. Why? These things are based entirely within fallen human reasoning instead of God’s perfect judgments.
Well, there you have it. When I was contacted by the fellow I mentioned above I began praying for wisdom, discernment and guidance about what to do about the whole thing. I prayed God would be glorified through it all and the Church would be edified. Then as the “evidence” came in, I took it to the throne of Grace, asking God to direct my response to it. It was amazing how I could see the holes in the arguments. I had some good friends look at it as well. This was a good thing because that meant that I had other spirit-led eyes looking at this stuff. We should not be surprised my brethren when those led by the Spirit are in complete agreement on the source of these things and what was really going on.
Let us stand firm my brethren against the wiles and deceit of the enemy. If the evidence I was given had clearly shown what was being contended then I would have had to respond differently to it. We must not cover up things like that. However, I did go through many weeks of severe doubt and anguish because of this stuff, which I realized over time was caused from attacks from our enemy. I took these things to the throne of grace as well. It was through all of this that I was taught that controversies like this one are the product of people being used by our enemy to divide and confuse the Body of Christ. My doubts and anguish were the result of hearing the evidence without making τὴν δικαίαν κρίσιν, but I was κρίνετε κατʼ ὄψιν instead. When I prayerfully came back to it with δικαίαν κρίσιν I could clearly see that this was an attempt to deceive. Are you judging with τὴν δικαίαν κρίσιν my brethren?
Soli Deo Gloria!